Tag Archives: grumpy waiters

Italy Report I (assuming that there will be more before we leave, which may or may not transpire)

The wonderful thing about going on holidays in a place you’ve been to before and you’ll probably be again, whether it’s Dungarvan or Duck or Clermant-Ferrand, is that there’s not really any pressure to do stuff. You don’t absolutely have to see all the sights and visit all the visitor attractions because you’ve probably seen them already or else you’ll no doubt see them the next time.

This takes a lot of the pressure off when it turns out nobody got up till 10am again and the kids are now unwilling to be extracted from the pool because of course they only ever start playing with the other children ten minutes before you were going to go out. So you crack open another paperback and turn over on your sun lounger and say “Oh well” and “Do we have any salami and cheese for lunch or should I wander over to the shop?” and then you just stay there contemplating where the sunscreen has gone and that you should probably reapply it to someone, somewhere.

(If you’re in Dungarvan, the sunscreen comment may not apply. But then, sunny southeast, you know. Playground of the gods and all that.)

My little proto-feminist is swinging on the swing chair singing at the top of her lungs “Girls are the best. Girls are princesses and boys have to do everything we say. You can eat their brains…”

The seven-year-old from Dublin just told Dash that “In my country, hardly anyone likes peanuts.” I called him out on this, since I am definitely sure that not everyone in Ireland dislikes peanuts, but he maintains that none of his friends do.

Dash asked me when we could come back to Italy. Our holiday isn’t even halfway over but he seems to have embraced the European lifestyle.

“I don’t know.”
“Can we come next summer?”
“No. It’s too expensive to fly here from America. If we lived in Ireland we probably could.”
“Let’s move to Ireland, then.”

Yesterday we had a classic Grumpy Waiter Experience. I had thought that such things only happened in France, but apparently there’s an Italian strain too. We sat in a lovely outdoor restaurant with a breathtaking view and cloth napkins. The cloth napkins should have immediately alerted me to the fact that this was Too Posh For My Children, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Breathtaking view over fields to Lago Maggiore

Mabel decided not to sit at the table but posted herself in a grump on the step. Since we were the only customers on the terraza, I was fine with that. But the waiter, on coming out and seeing this, decided this was his chance to show off his excellent English and, well, I don’t know – bond with the parents by laying down the law or bond with the child by being amusingly stern – one of those things. It did not come out as either, though. He asked us her name and then called her over to her place, saying she had to sit down. Mabel was unimpressed. So was I, because he wasn’t coming across as either friendly or amusing, and all she was doing was sitting on a step in a bad mood, and in nobody’s way.

There were no pizzas on the menu. There were no breadsticks on the table. When I asked about breadsticks I was told in no uncertain terms that they did not have any. When we asked about apple juice (the kid drink of choice around here) we were told that they don’t have apple juice because other establishments have apple juice. We ordered an orange juice for Mabel and nothing for Dash.

The following things happened:

  • The waiter misheard B’s order for something else beginning with C and brought him a caprese salad. When we said this, he accused B of saying Caprese. He did not apologise for bringing the wrong thing and seemed ready to get into a fistfight over who was right but grudgingly said he’d bring the other thing.
  • The orange juice was red. It looked like Campari to me but it tasted good to Mabel so that was fine. When I tasted it, it was basically Robinsons/KoolAid.
  • I asked for plain pasta for Mabel, with just oil. It came with a dusting of parmesan on top, which of course we did not want. When I Very Politely and with my best Customer Smile said that we needed it to have nothing but a little oil, our waiter went into Defensive Mode immediately and explained to me that in Italy, all pasta comes with cheese. Yes, but I asked for just oil. Please could we have some with no cheese? Just a little?
  • When her pasta finally came out, long after her father’s replacement lunch finally came out, of course she refused to taste it. History does not record the waiter’s reaction to this entirely predictable eventuality.
  • I took the children down the road to the small cafe where the people were friendly and they had a packet of crisps/chips each for lunch, followed by a large Cornetto ice cream. The other members of our party followed at their leisure and everyone was much happier.

Children with huge ice creams

Then we found a giant church on the hilltop where the body of Santa Margharita was right there on the altar (putting St Katharine of Siena’s finger, which I saw many years ago, not to mention Oliver Plunkett’s heart, well in the ha’penny place), and explored a fort that may or may not have been built by the Medicis.

Such is Italy. That’s enough sightseeing for now.